League One - 60,000 sign petition to stop rapist Ched Evans re-joining club

Around 60,000 people have signed a petition to prevent convicted rapist Ched Evans from signing for Sheffield United upon his release from prison.

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Ched Evans outside court during his trial for rape. Evans, 25, will be released in July 2014 after serving half of a five-year sentence (PA)

Evans, 25, was jailed for five years at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012 after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old in a hotel room.

The striker, formerly of Manchester City, admitted having sex with the woman and the prosecution successfully argued that she was too drunk to consent.

He has recently launched a fresh attempt to get the conviction overturned but is due to be released in October and United have shown an interest in re-employing him.

Blades supporters – or some of them at least - appear to favour the plan.

Alan Smith, a member of the Sheffield United Supporters Club, told Sky News: "He has served his time, he has served his sentence and we would have him back. Good players like that have got to carry on playing and if not for Sheffield United it would be for someone else, and we would regret that.”

However, almost 60,000 people have put their names to a petition, addressed to United chairman Kevin McCabe, demanding that Evans is not given a lucrative contract when he is released from prison.

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Ched Evans

And Rape Crisis England and Wales have made a point of appealing directly to the club to think carefully about their actions.

Director of communications Katie Russell said: "It is of course any convicted criminal's right to serve their sentence and then go back into employment. We absolutely stand by that.

"But at the same time we would urge Sheffield United to think very carefully about the message that they send when they immediately re-employ someone who's been convicted of such a very serious crime.

"If they choose to do that, which is their right, we urge them to seriously consider the impact that will have on huge numbers of their supporters and we urge them to make a very strong statement condemning sexual violence, condemning violence against women and girls and making it clear that misogyny, sexism, violence and sexual violence in particular won't be tolerated within football."

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